Our exploration of non-conventional wines (for us) continues with this Italian Nebbiolo pullled from the cellar to enjoy with Suparossa pizza watching the Cubs in game four of the world series. We ordered out for premium pizza and I scoured the cellar for a premium Italian wine suitable for the occasion.
As written in earlier blogposts, readers of this blog know we don't do a lot of Italian wines. Less than 1% of our cellar is in Italian labels. There are so many appellations and varietals and producers across all the regions, I advise folks to find one you like and focus on a few to develop knowledge and understanding of that area, and then move on. We focus on Bordeaux and Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot...) and Rhone and its varietals (which includes Syrah/Shiraz and thus includes Australia's popular varietal).
I admit, I am not well versed in Italian wine regions and their associated grape varietals. I've written before that in the 'new world', we name or label our wines based on the primary grape varietal in the bottle. In the 'old world', they, (the French, Italians, Germans), name the wine for the region or appellation, and its up to the consumer to understand the applicable wine grape varietal associated with that area. For example, Left Bank Bordeaux appellations (growing areas) such as St Julien and Paulliac are Cabernet Sauvignon based blends, while Right Bank Bordeaux such as St Emilion and Pomerol are Merlot based blends.
In this case of Italy and Lombardia, the wines are based on the Nebbiolo grape varietal. Perhaps this is obvious, but the neophyte, or even learned wine geeks who don't know Italian wines, don't necessarily know the association of Sangiovese or Nebbiolo varietals and their regions and appellations, Lombardia, Barolo, Piedmont, Tuscany etc.
Skip ahead if this is known and basic, or bear with me if you're interested in learning these fundamentals of Lombardia Valtellina Superiore, and Sforzato di Valtellina which are two Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) (aka appellation in France or AVA (American (Agriculture) Viticultural Area) in America) in the northern Italian region of Lombardia. Stella Sfursat are red wines made primarily from the Nebbiolo grape varietal.
This is like in the Piedmont Barolo DOCG with its communes of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d'Alba, and parts of the communes of Cherasco, Diano d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d'Alba, Novello, Roddi and Verduno. These sub-appellations as they might be called in America, are mentioned on the label, but are secondary to the region name. To many, me included, this adds to the confusion of interpreting or parsing an Italian wine label.
Nebbiolo based wines tend to be bold, full bodied, tannic, firm, concentrated and long lived with tasting characteristics of black fruits, tar, rose petals and smoke which made this ideal for the tangy spicy pizza tomato sauces.
5 Stelle Sfursat di Valtellina DOCG
This is Nino Negri’s flagship wine, made from the most select very best grapes, only in the best vintage years. The fruit for this wine is 100% Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca) grapes, hand picked in the most acclaimed parcels of Valtellina Superiore. The grape are dried naturally for 3 months in their skins.
The Valtellina appellation lies north of Lake Como in the province of Sondrio. It is sheltered from the cold northern winds by the Rhaetian Alps mountain range. The Valley, runs 40 kms from east to west and faces the south where it is exposed to the sun all day. The Valley is divided into four sub-zones that each are named for the different types of wine produced there: Grumello, Sassella, Inferno and Valgella. The territory has two DOCGs, the more widely known Valtellina Superiore, and Sforzato di Valtellina.
CellarTracker Drinking Window indicates this is not yet at but nearing the end of its peak drinking window.
It is brick red color and starting to show some brisking separation of its body, medium bodied, nose and flavors of black fruits with layer of tangy cinnamon spice predominating, subdued floral and nose, the black berry and black cherry fruits predominant with tones of black olive, tar, soy and hint of baking spices with supple dry tannins.
This was perfect accompaniment to the spicy tomato sauces of the Suparossa carry-out pizzas.
RM 90 points.